Living Up to the Hype
Arknights, a tower defense game with RPG elements, has experienced a surge of popularity since its release back in January. But even before launch, publisher Yostar announced that the game had reached over one million pre-registrations across Korea, Japan, and various English-speaking countries.
The majority of those players likely were not disappointed with the game that developer Hypergryph delivered, and neither was I. There is almost nothing that I don’t like about this game. Not to say that it’s perfect, because it’s not, but it is brilliant, addictive, and offers a depth of gameplay that is truly impressive for a mobile title.
Where to Begin?
When I installed Arknights, I thought that the game was based on a manga or anime series that I had simply never heard of. It turns out that the story of Arknights is unique to the game. That says quite a bit about the developer’s dedication to the world they created. It possesses so much character and seems so detailed that I thought it had been established over the course of years.
Upon first launching the game, I was honestly intimidated. There is a lot to learn. The story is incredibly deep and the gameplay elements are extensive. At its core, Arknights is a tactical tower defense game. You build a squad of Operators and place them strategically on a grid to defend key points from enemies. But the game offers much more than just battles. You can recruit and upgrade hundreds of Operators, each with their own star rating, class, and skillset. There is also base building and decorating, costumes to collect, resource synthesis and management, and even timed events.
The entire system can be quite overwhelming and the learning curve for Arknights might seem high for some players. Luckily, the game provides a decent number of helpful tutorials in the beginning stages, but they only skim the surface. I highly recommend finding some YouTube videos or checking out the game’s growing online community to fully uncover and experience what the game has to offer.
Let’s Talk Aesthetics
I don’t usually spend a lot of time discussing a mobile game’s graphics unless they are exceptional, in either a good or bad way. The aesthetic of Arknights is definitely the former. The artwork in the game’s story mode resembles an anime, quite frankly, with backdrops that look like the impressive concept illustrations you find in art books. It’s clear that a particularly talented team of artists put a lot of work into creating the game’s massive variety of character models and the world that they inhabit.
That artistic skill carries over to the game’s interface as well. Initially, it might seem like a bewildering array of options splashed nonsensically across your screen. But the logic behind each button quickly becomes clear and you will soon begin to navigate from one screen to the next with assurance.
Even the music in Arknights is noteworthy. Although there are unfortunately only a handful of different tunes—for battle, victory, navigating menus, etc—they are remarkably well composed and catchy. You will find them bouncing around in your head as you walk to the kitchen, drive to the store, or try to fall asleep at night. I’m still not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing.
So What’s Wrong With It?
I’m actually hard pressed to find something negative to say about Arknights. The one thing that I find slightly unpleasant is the excessive amount of dialog. The game has both a story mode and side missions for resource farming or jumping into a quick skirmish. A number of the battles in story mode are preceded by dialog interludes that sometimes last for what feels like an eternity. You don’t want to skip them because you might miss an important story tidbit, but they really just drone on and on. A little editing could have cut the dialog in half and still expressed the same thing. I actually find myself avoiding story mode sometimes and doing side missions because I simply don’t feel like sitting through all of that yapping.
Because this is a gacha game, I think it’s important to mention this aspect of Arknights at least briefly. Basically, you don’t have to spend money to enjoy this game. It’s incredibly free-to-play friendly. Sure, you can spend real cash to buy resources and progress more quickly in the game, but it’s really not necessary. The game leads you to the store through a tutorial but other than that the gacha mechanics are not at all thrown in your face.
Arknights is a game that I will be playing for a long time to come. It has such depth and so many facets of gameplay that I know I have barely broken the surface of what the game has to offer. It really provides an all-around enjoyable experience that has been developed with skill and an obvious desire to simply create a great game.
Is it Hardcore?
Arknights is an RPG, character collection, base building tower defense game. With incredible depth and a fairly high learning curve, it gives players a very enjoyable way to spend their free time.